By Susan Hack
During President Obama's African tour, anti-poaching activists hope he will talk wildlife conservation strategy with President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania when he visits the country July 1 and 2.
The issue is suddenly more pressing because Tanzania has earmarked funds in its 2013–14 national budget to plan and design a controversial gravel road across the northern sector of Serengeti National Park.
The on-again, off-again Serengeti Highway, which wildlife activists have been fighting for years, would link the Indian Ocean coast to Lake Victoria and beyond to Uganda, Rwanda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, opening direct routes to ports and neighboring states for Tanzanian’s inland gold mines and soda ash extraction industry. But conservationists fear construction and industrial traffic will displace and devastate the annual migration of more than a million wildebeest, who calve at the southern end of the park from December through March and then follow rains north through the Serengeti into Kenya’s Masai Mara National Reserve, where the great herds have now begun arriving.
Although the German government and World Bank have offered to fund a longer paved southern road that would bypass the Serengeti completely, mining lobbies appear to back a northern shortcut.
The largest country in East Africa, Tanzania has put 28 percent of its landmass under protection for wildlife and nature conservation in 16 national parks and 32 game reserves. Its nature tourism is among the most diverse in Africa. More....